Magazine article Science News

Radio Interferometry Steps off the Earth

Magazine article Science News

Radio Interferometry Steps off the Earth

Article excerpt

Radio interferometry steps off the earth

Radio interferometry has shown astronomers fine structural details of many kinds of celestial objects, particularly active galaxies and quasars (see story above). Interferometry works by combining signals from a given source recorded by widely spaced receivers; the more widely spaced the receivers, the finer the detail observed. Until recently the technique was limited to linking together radiotelescopes located on the earth. Now, for the first time, astronomers have linked earth-based radiotelescopes with a receiver on an orbiting satellite, a member of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite system, and successfully observed three quasars with a resolution of detail greater than that of any solely terrestrial combination of telescopes.

the experiment, reported in the Oct. 10 SCIENCE, shows that a receiver moving in orbit can be succesfully combined with others fixed on earth for this kind of work. It represents a first step on what radioastronomers hope will be a march into space and even to the moon. Particularly, according to the astronomers who did it, it demonstrates the feasibility of the proposed QUASAT project now under study by NASA and the European Space Agency. This would put up a satellite dedicated to radioastronomy to work as an interferometer with radiotelescopes on earth.

Interferometry combines signals received simultaneously at different telescopes and uses the correlations and differences among them in phase, intensity, amplitude or a combination of thsoe attributes. …

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